It happens every year on Thanksgiving. Local TV and newspapers cover it. Friends post about it online and blogs promote it. Politicians and clergy, corporate executives and athletes jump in. Out of compassion, they come to help to feed the homeless and visit the poor. Clean crisp aprons, big smiles, handshakes. For one day, for one meal – and then they are gone.
Just as surely as they show up in the morning, the holiday helpers vanish by dark. The next day only the deeply committed return. No turkey dished out under the glare of television lights, no scrum of reporters. Suddenly those in poverty have once again, become invisible.
ThanksGivingAmerica is committed to changing that.
During the third week of November 2012, in celebration of our national day of Thanks, ThanksGivingAmerica will open an exhibit of 50 photographic and multimedia essays – one from each state – highlighting the struggles and dreams of impoverished Americans, as those with little join those with a little more to give Thanks.
Award-winning photographers in all 50 states will carry out the project during the late summer and fall. The result will be a powerful visual reckoning unseen since Dorothea Lange and the Dust Bowl photographers chronicled the Great Depression and created riveting images that helped mold the nation’s collective memory and conscience. We will photograph a broad array of those struggling economically showcasing how they embody the enduring American spirit. Since poverty knows no zip codes or city limits we will visit people in need in rural, urban and suburban communities, and in each of America’s states.
The exhibit will open at Columbia College Chicago in a beautiful street-front gallery at the corner of Congress and Wabash Streets in Chicago's Loop, and travel to schools, colleges, town halls, libraries, community centers, and houses of worship throughout the United States.
The Context and the Need
According to 2011 Census data 46.3 million Americans – nearly 1 in 6 of us – live in poverty. This is the largest increase in the fifty-two years that the government has measured poverty.
Twenty million Americans – more than the entire population of New York State – live on less than $11,000 a year for a family of four.
One in five American children lives in poverty, most in families where at least one parent has a job.
ThanksGivingAmerica is a project of the AmericanPoverty.org campaign (http://americanpoverty.org), a 501(c)3 non-profit alliance of some of the most accomplished photographers in the United States. Joining us are renowned American writers, filmmakers and educators, all of whom seek to make alleviating poverty a national priority. Together we are working to dispel stereotypes and encourage actions that can create lasting impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. We believe that the stories of people struggling to overcome poverty deserve to be told - and that by sharing them we can inspire thousands and thousands of people to take action and create change.
Founded by Steve Liss, Columbia College Chicago teacher, Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow and thirty-year veteran Time Magazine photographer, AmericanPoverty.org and its parent organization, In Our Own Backyard, have mounted exhibits in galleries, town halls, libraries and schools from San Jose, CA to Washington, DC (https://vimeo.com/channels/231864.)
The result of this project will be published, exhibited and made available to those wanting to help reawaken the conversation, who want every day to be Thanksgiving, when our collective eyes – along with our hearts – are opened to those in poverty.
The exhibit will travel throughout the United State. Pending sponsorship, a book of photographs and essays would also be published as a permanent, tangible product that could be used as an ongoing reference and a record of the project. Moreover, the photographs and multimedia will become part of the AmericanPoverty.org Student Leadership Project (https://vimeo.com/28254822), which provides high school students opportunities to learn about poverty and encourage community involvement.
We can’t do this alone – we need your help!
IF this were easy, we wouldn’t be asking for your help. But even with photographers and editors donating their time, there are trememndous expenses: hotels, airfare and meals, the costs of making, mounting and shipping prints and the financial reality of launching a publicity campaign once the images are made.
And that's where you come in: your support today can help make this project a reality. Your support of both dollars and spirit will be present in every print, every exhibit and every step we collectively take towards making the invisible, visible.
The project is highly scalable, and the number and location of exhibits will dependent on the success of our Indiegogo campaign, as well as ongoing outreach to potential funders.
Our parent organization, In Our Own Backyard, NFP is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Accordingly all contributions to the ThanksGivingAmerica project are tax deductable under U.S. tax code.
In addition to our boundless gratitude, we are offering some terrific rewards; a chance to own historic and beautiful photography, printed from original transparencies or files using archival pigment ink insuring they will last a lifetime and more.
IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS FOR ORDERING PERKS
1. Remember to select "CLAIM THIS PERK" in the column above and to the right of this text before you make a donation.
2. Where a choice of photographs is offered, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, your choice of photograph and your shipping address.
Here are the choices, matched with minimum donations at right:
THE FIRST DAWN, INTERNATIONAL DATELINE, JANUARY 1, 2000
The first dawn of the new millennium, Chatham Islands, New Zealand, at the Interantional Dateline. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
A rare portrait of Mother Teresa, taken for Time Magazine in 1991 but never published or exhibited. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
A ten-year-old boy sits alone in his juvenile detention cell in Texas. From the book No Place for Children: Voices From Juvenile Detention by Steve Liss.
Children as young as 10 march through the juvenile detention prison yard at dawn in Texas. Some have skipped school too much; some are gang members. From the book No Place for Children: Voices From Juvenile Detention by Steve Liss.
Earlene Grayer, 36, raised 16 children and grandchildren in this tiny shack with no running water in the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest reagions in the United States. Photograph by Steve Liss.
A mother and child behind the screen door on the porch of their two-room shack in Tunica, Mississippi. As difficult as it is to believe, children still go to bed hungry in the United States of America. Photograph by Steve Liss.
The homefront on the day that Iraq War I began, Illinois, 1991. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
Boston, Massachusetts. An historic view before the 'big dig' changed the city forever. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
Coming home: A cowboy in Wyoming returns to a mountaintop cow camp for the night. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
Dawn in Texas: A Texas Cowboy rouding up horses in the pre-dawn light. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
The Casper, Wyoming fire department in their new hazardous material suits, post 9/11. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
The new President and First Lady, Pennsylvania Avenue, Inauguration Day 1993. Photographed from the camera truck leading the Presidential motorcade. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
In an exclusive photograph, Bill Clinton poses on the railroad tracks in his home town, Hope, Arkansas. The Secret Service closed the track for one-hundred miles in either direction for the shoot. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
RED SOX NATION
After eighty-four years, my beloved Red Sox win the World Series, the old Busch Stadium, St. Louis, 2004. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
In an historic comeback, the Red sox clinch the 2004 American League pennant in Yankee Stadium, the Bronx. Photograph for TIME by Steve Liss.
Pitcher Jim Longorg is carried off the field at Fenway Park as the 100-to-one shot Boston Red Sox clinch the American League pennant on the final day of the season, October 1, 1967. This was the single highlight of my childhood and this photograph was taken by a UPI shooter unknown to me then but who would become my friend and mentor: the late, great Don Robinson.
Ending what many have called the greatest baseball game ever palyed, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk jumps on home plate after his 12th inning home run won game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. Church bells rang throughout New England and John Kiley, the Red sox organist, played the Hallelujah Chorus as Fisk rounded the bases. Photograph by Steve Liss.
STATE OF THE UNION
In an historic moment, President Barack Obama deliver his 2009 State of the Union message before a joint session of Congress, at the same podium where President Lyndon Johnson told Congress in 1965 that "...we shall overcome." My friend and colleague Brooks Kraft donated this beautiful photograph, and the one below, out of his respect for what we're trying to do at AmericanPoverty.org. And we're deeply indebted to him. Photograph for TIME by Brooks Kraft.
In the tradition of the great LIFE photographers before him, Time shooter Brooks Kraft chose to forego the obvious picture from the front and instead captured an unforgetable and rare image of three American presidents walking the colonade of the White House. Photograph for TIME by Brooks Kraft.
Facebook and Twitter
Please participate on our brand new Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/ThanksGivingAmerica) and follow the campaign on twitter @americanpoverty.
Steve Liss, Founder, director, 30-year veteran Time magazine photographer, Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow and lecturer in photography at Columbia College Chicago.
Jon Lowenstein, Co-founder, TedGlobal 2011 Fellow and 2011 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, former Pictures of the Year International Magazine Photographer of the Year.
Bill Healy, Communications Director, BA in Sociology from Georgetown, Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern, Masters in Education from Northwestern, Carnegie/Knight News 21 Fellow.
William C. Diehl, Educational Director, Ph.D. in Adult Education from Pennsylvania State University and interviews editor at The American Journal of Distance Education.
Mary Studley, former Time magazine Midwest picture editor, Indianapolis Community School Coordinator
Our advisory board includes:
Marion Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Alex Kotlowitz, noted author of There Are No Children Here and producer of The Interrupters
Peter Loge, Principal, Milo Public Affairs, Washington, DC, and instructor at George Washington University and Emerson College.
Henry Berman, CEO, The Association of Small Foundations, Washington, DC, and a former producer of film and multimedia with a masters and a doctorate in Education from Boston University with a concentration on Educational Media and Technology.
Michelle Keenan, Director of Community Programs, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Boston, MA.